Motivation Monday: The Freedom of What You Don’t Do

Today’s guest post is from Linda Anderson. Linda is Founder of Mom to Mom Ministries. She is a workshop speaker at the 2012 Hearts at Home conferences.

Linda and her husband, Woody, live in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and have three married children and six-plus grandchildren who live in New Hampshire, Florida, and Dublin, Ireland. For more information about Linda’s ministry visit www.momtomom.org.

 

It hit me on an ordinary Thursday afternoon. Because Thursdays were half days in our town, my kids were involved in a number of activities. And not only my three kids; all their friends, too. Since many other parents worked full-time, I became the carpool queen every Thursday.

And then it happened: As I was approaching an intersection, I had to choose whether to take the left turn lane or continue straight ahead. The problem? I had no idea where I was going. Left to the ice rink for skating lessons? Or was it a later left to Pioneer Girls at our church? Wait—did I have girls or boys in the back? A quick check: Yep, girls. And no ice skates. Must be Pioneer Girls next.

All this in just a few seconds. But funny how revealing a few seconds can be. Once I got the girls safely delivered, I took inventory. Reviewing each activity in which my kids were involved, I quickly came to an obvious conclusion: Not one of my three kids was over-programmed, but I was.

I was suffering from a common mom-malady, which I think has intensified recently: TMS (The Too Much Syndrome) Recognize it?

TMI (Too Much Information) We are bombarded 24/7 with cable news, the internet, Facebook friends, even magazines at the supermarket—all full of suggestions for who we are to be as moms and what we should be doing for our kids.

TMA (Too Many Activities) All good things. But too much of even a good thing is too much. Do your kids see only the “van view” of you– the back of your head while carpooling?

TMT (Too Much Technology) The noise is deafening. Are you (or your kids) texting your way through life as it passes you by? Do you know your FB friends better than your family?

TME (Too Many Expectations) We expect too much of our husbands, our kids—and mostly ourselves. Our “To Do” lists are killing us.

So what’s a mom to do? Or, put more appropriately, what’s a mom to not do? My suggestion? Try making a list of things you don’t do. As a recovering perfectionist mom, I gradually compiled my own list of things I just didn’t do—in order to do the things that mattered most.

Then recently, I came across author Shauna Niequist’s chapter “Things I Don’t Do” in her wonderful little book Bittersweet (p. 53-60). If you want to pick up the book, you’ll find her list inspiring.—and freeing.

Making a “Things I don’t do” list is hard. There’s a lot a mom just can’t cut out of her schedule. Like diapers and meals and laundry. But if you think clearly about your priorities and creatively about your daily life, you’ll be surprised at what you can let go.

Here are a few “Don’t Do That” items from my own list:

Gourmet meals: My kids were well-fed and nourished, but no Julia Child here. I once asked my grown son what meal he most remembered from his childhood. His reply? “Those “Steakum” sandwiches you made before Little League games”! Full disclosure: He went on to list other slightly more sophisticated family meal favorites. But you get the picture.

Crafts—or anything handmade: Just not my gift! I’m not a “crafty” person. I often wish I were. But somehow my kids survived without hand-sewn Halloween costumes and Martha Stewart decorations on their birthday cakes.

White glove cleaning: Being a first-born half-German recovering perfectionist, I do need a certain degree of order in my life. So I did pick up toys and clear the countertops fairly regularly. But deep cleaning (like washing the kitchen floor frequently)? Not so much.

Gardening: Here’s another gift I wish I had. But I don’t. I did assist one of our sons (with the help of a Grandpa) in raising tomato plants one or two seasons. But that’s about it.

I hope this sampling from my “Don’t Do” list will not alarm you. My kids seem to have survived quite well into healthy, happy adulthood. But I do hope it will inspire you. Making this list—and living it without guilt—can be very freeing!

What’s on your “I don’t do that” list?

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7 Responses to Motivation Monday: The Freedom of What You Don’t Do

  1. Donna says:

    Your post really caught my attention and for some reason reminded me of something I have been convicted of lately. I spend way too much time in front of a screen – computer or tv. As of today, I plan to become a mom who “doesn’t do” those things which take my attention away from what’s important – my family. (Okay, I’ll be realistic….I’ll limit my time on each. During morning coffee for computer and one day a week for the tv.)

  2. amber landers says:

    Thank you so muchfor the “Don’t do list” I love the idea. And when thinking about our life we do something like that. I’m also glad that this is a small week and will be leaving Thurdays for Hearts-at-home!!!

  3. Terri says:

    This is SO timely. Two things just went on the chopping block this morning and I said “no” to another. This was great reinforcement that I made the right decision. Thanks! Looking forward to this weekend!

  4. Kristy Pachan says:

    What a refreshing point of view. Usually, I go through my day thinking about all the things I “have” to do. So much so that I usually get overwhelmed and stressed. Today I changed my thinking and started thinking about the things I “don’t have” to do. Wow! It changed my perspective on my whole day and gave me room to breathe again! My husband, kids, dogs, and cats all have tummies that are full. The house looks OK. Everyone is happy and relaxed. The best part there were many things I didn’t “have” to do and it was a much better day!
    Thanks for the encouragement!!

  5. Barb says:

    Thank you for a much needed reminder. As a Mom of four kids 6 and under and a homeschooler, I often have thoughts of things I “could” do. The list includes ministries I could serve at in church, business opportunities I could start on the side, and many craft projects that I love to do. However, I try to keep reminding myself that my focus – my kids – is a calling from God and something I want to do well. So, it’s easier to say “no” when I am reminded that I have permission to and I need to in order to focus on what my priorities are.

  6. Hope says:

    Thank you for your post. It ministered to me as this month I am reading One Month to Live. Thirty day to a No-Regrets Life. It seems that I do so much that I don’t get nothing done. Time is a moral issue and what we do with it makes a big impact. This has been a life changing month for me.